“But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands,” the president said during a speech he promised wouldn’t be long, but clocked in at just under an hour. “Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. “
This type of thinking about terrorism is not new. You can find proponents of the “lightening is more dangerous than terrorism” school of thought on both the libertarian right and the Barack Obama left. In November, Princeton Professor Andrew Shaver wrote an article in The Washington Post provocatively entitled, “You’re more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than killed by a terrorist.”
“But despite unremitting coverage of the Paris attacks, an objective examination of the facts shows that terrorism is an insignificant danger to the vast majority of people in the West,” Shaver declared.
“Consider, for instance, that since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been no more likely to die at the hands of terrorists than being crushed to death by unstable televisions and furniture,” he went on.
The only problem with this way of thinking is my desk chair isn’t part of an international conspiracy actively trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction in order to inflict a mass casualty attack on American soil. And the United States government doesn’t have to spend billions of dollars a year in order to ensure the death toll from lightening strikes doesn’t drastically increase.
Yes, we are fortunate that successful terror attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11 have so far been relatively rare and have killed far fewer people collectively than various other threats we never even think about. But Islamist terrorists are actively planning and plotting to increase the numbers of American infidels they kill, and are seeking the deadliest weapons to inflict such carnage. My armoire is not.
This type of thinking has consequences. If you view the terrorism threat the same way you view the bathtub drowning threat, you’re probably not taking the risk of Islamist terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction as seriously as you should. It’s the type of delusional way of looking the world that might make a president mistake the most sophisticated terror group in human history for a “J.V. team” — or a nation who captures American sailors and humiliates them on national television as a country who will uphold its end of a nuclear treaty.